Pancreatic Cancer – Overview

I am sure all around the world everyone would have loved to hear and read that ‘Steve Jobs battled pancreatic cancer  successfully!!’ But as destiny would have it!

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Though he was suffering from a form of pancreatic cancer that has treatment options and patients may continue to lead normal lives after months and even years of treatment, it was primarily his decision of not receiving medical treatment during the early stages that led to his death.

In this article we attempt to understand what is pancreatic cancer?

In this article, we discuss Pancreatic Cancer from a general point of view and not specifically to Steve Jobs. Let us start by understanding the function of the pancreas in our bodies.

Pancreas and their Function

The pancreas is an organ which is roughly 6 inches in length and is located behind the stomach, at the back of the abdomen. The pancreas contains two sets of glands – exocrine and endocrine.

      Exocrine and Endocrine Glands

Endocrine glands are glands that secrete hormones, and other products directly into the blood stream. The endocrine gland of the pancreas secretes insulin, glucagon and somatostatin. Unlike the endocrine gland, the exocrine gland releases its products through a duct rather than releasing it directly into the blood stream.  Secretion of pancreatic juices assists in the absorption of nutrients and aids in digestion in the small intestine.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is characterized by the hyperactive growth of cells Pancreatic Cancer Awarenessin the pancreas, which results in  hampering the formation of healthy pancreatic tissue. These deformed cells, group together and form masses or lumps in the pancreas which are categorized as tumors. The tumors formed in the pancreas, hamper the functioning of the organ.

The causes of pancreatic carcinoma, have not been determined however there have been numerous studies and analysis which have shown that there are several traits that causes this type of cancer.There are certain factors that can be considered to be the risk factors leading to cancer of the pancreas.

Exocrine Cancer – the most common type of pancreatic cancer

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Most of the cases of pancreatic cancer are in the exocrine region responsible for producing the digestive juices. Exocrine pancreatic cancer can further be of different types including

  • Cystic tumors: These lead to a cystic growth in the pancreas. Most of the pancreatic cysts are benign but some may be cancerous.
  • Cancer of the acinar cells : These are tail ends of the ducts producing the pancreatic juices. They are slower growing

The prognosis in both the above types is better than other forms of pancreatic cancers.

Endocrine Cancer – the rare type of pancreatic cancers

Rare cancers, their growth starts in the endocrine region of the pancreas. These are also known as PNETS (Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors and Islet Cell Tumor). Insulin, a blood sugar level regulator is produced in this part. Tumors in this region are mostly non cancerous. They are further of different types depending on the hormone that is produced

  • Gastrinomas
  • Insulinomas
  • Somatostatinomas  
  • VIPomas
  • Glucagonomas

 Endocrine and exocrine cancers are not treated identically.

Other rare types of Pancreatic Cancers

The other types of pancreatic cancers are

  • Pancreatoblastoma: These mainly occur in children. In some cases these are linked to rare genetic conditions. The main treatment for this type of cancer is surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
  • Sarcoma of the pancreas: These are cancers that develop in the connective tissue that hold the cells of the pancreas together.
  • Lymphoma:  This is the cancer of the lymphatic system. As the lymphatic system runs through the entire body, this type of cancer can develop anywhere in the body.



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  • meetunayyar
  • A lawyer by profession, social worker and a fighter against cancer